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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oldboy (2003, Korean)

Director: Park Chan-wook
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Cast: Min-sik Choi

Fifteen years of hatred turns to guilt.

Oldboy 2003 Korean
First few minutes (rather an hour!) of the movie don't make much sense—obviously scripted like that on purpose. We do realize director is planning a twist down the line but are fairly apprehensive as many movies fail to create that perfect ending—when it comes to a twist, not every movie is a 'Rebecca' or 'Perfume'. This movie though, is almost in league with the best.
A beautifully and thoughtfully written script unravels the mystery/purpose of whatever all that didn't made sense earlier.

Oh Dae-su is in captivity for past fifteen years. In this time-period, after getting over the initial depression, he maintains his fitness through shadow training. He is now out and seeking revenge and you too are rooting for him. Some way forward into the movie, you don’t know who to support!
Now, Park Chan-wook very artistically represents so-called villain’s aspect. The villainy in the movie isn’t exactly a criminal act as those involved don’t hurt anyone or even feel guilty until one of them cracks under societal pressure. This breakdown is partly due to an act of our protagonist and, in-a-way, makes him the bad-guy. But his act wasn’t villainous either; however, you do feel sympathy for the affected. By the end of movie, what eventually happens with our hero simply leaves you dumbstruck. This ‘what’ was an act of sheer villainy, still—testimony to class of director and script—you are muttering under your breadth, ‘revenge is sweet’!
In all, it is about a highly-improbable scenario that occurs in extremities of convoluted mind/heart/soul.

As for violence, movie isn't as graphic as; say, those 'Saw' or 'Hostel' movies but what it does to your mind (recall that tooth-pulling scene!) is way more disturbing than it is in movies specifically made for showing blood-gore. The emotions are running so high that you feel hatred and vengeance in your bones.

Subject/content of the movie is not much of a taboo (it simply is), more specifically 'incest', as much has been written and shown about it. Of course in today's modern world 'incest' isn't socially accepted but in the past there have been tribes, royalties, even civilizations where this was a common practice and not that big a deal. Director here doesn't dabble in moralities; he simply introduces you to the depths of a twisted human mind.

This is a very powerful film in terms of analysis of human psyche, and cleverly, Park Chan-wook steers clear of depicting/justifying good or evil. He leaves all that to viewers. Even the last scene shows Oh Dae-su (once the movie ends you realize how fabulous Min-sik Choi actually was) with a contorted smile and you simply wonder!  

And no surprise, a remake (Spike Lee) is in pipeline!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Story (1983)

Director: Bob Clark
Genre: Comedy

A Christmas Story (1983)
Plot: "just like the one your Dad had!"

One of the best Christmas movies you'll see and it is nothing like Clark’s bummer ‘Baby Geniuses’!

‘Christmas Story’ is a hell of a joyride where you get to feel the ultimate high of revisiting your own childhood. It’s like...Clark turned into a kid himself to direct this movie. In every aspect this film is near perfect—immaculate cast, stupendous role-play by everyone (mother, father, kids, teacher, bully etc!), and a lighthearted, perfect for Christmas, script based on some short stories.

Few scenes are simply unmatchable examples of top notch direction that required Clark to not only have a good understanding of situation but also a connection from his own past at an emotional level.
  • Case in point - the ‘soap-poisoning’ scene where the protagonist Ralphie fantasizes (like most kids do!) an entire sequence that shows how he makes his parents feel guilty for punishing him! He drifts-off into his little, routine fantasy in a sad mood with tears on face but by its end, he has a smile/satisfaction on face.
  • Another scene, that is perfection personified in terms of acting too, is Ralphie’s fight with the big bully—watch out for Ralphie’s expressions while he turns from a near cry-baby to a ferocious, raging bull! Kind of reminded me of a 'young me' at some point of time ;)  
Each and every character emanate the vibes that make you believe as if you are watching a real-life family caught on hidden cameras. You feel yourself being a part of it and enjoy the day-to-day laughs with the family.           

To top it all, engrossing and hilarious narration by an adult Ralphie keeps you glued into the movie throughout!

What more! I want a Red Ryder BB gun right now ;)


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Tom Cruise
Genre: Action

 Plot: 'Top Gun' is back on the hunt!

Ghost Protocol
A full-blown entertainer with some scenes/stunts you would love to repeat again.

The movie won't show you anything that hasn't been shown on-screen before apart from world's tallest building and some high-tech gadgetry that simply blow your mind away.
The gadgets are way cooler than all earlier movies and good enough to rival Bond flicks. Compared to the previous comparatively darker MI3, MI4 has some pretty good laughs in it.

The Indian audience is in for some disappointment. Anil Kapoor’s role was supposed to be of a billionaire Playboy but he looked more like nutjob and comedian--rather a sidekick of a comedian as Simon Pegg was already doing the job decently! He reminded me more Shakti Kapoor--the Indian comic actor!

MI4 features some daring stunts and by the interval your adrenaline is rushing very high. You want it to reach the level next and end the crescendo with a big-bang. That doesn't happen. The climax sequence in India, that had to be grand, leaves you in want for more action--it rather ends meekly.

The way it was publicized, most of us MI4 franchise fans, expected to see the best action movie of the year or even last decade! Don't go-in with too many expectations and you'll enjoy it more than I did!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Immortals (2011)

Director: Tarsem Singh
Cast: Henry Cavill, Luke Evans, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt
Genre: Fantasy, Action

Plot: One man alone must carry the burden of God's trust.

Immortals (2011)

This again is a movie involving Greek mythology. If you already haven't seen "Clash of the Titans" then let me tell you it is quite similar in terms of three primary groups involved--mortal men, Gods, and a mad King. Of course, King wants to rule the World and free the Titans that were once defeated and imprisoned under Maount Tartaros by Gods. As a rule, God don't meddle in the business of mortals. Amidst all this is a coveted weapon 'Epirus bow' created by Ares, the God of War.
The action sequences are good, though nothing over-the-top. There are some moments that do rush your adrenaline. Like the fight scene where Theseus's mother is slain by mad King Hyperion (Rourke), and final battle scene involving all the Gods--kind of uber-cool battle sequence!

Indian connection: if only Frieda Pinto had a substantial role, though she does make her presence felt in this short role.

The entire movie is good to look at...very creative in terms of picturization and set design. 3d effects are perfect too.

One weakness: It doesn't make much use of Henry Cavill's full potential and the most-wanted bow is merely a showpiece. What you do see of Cavill is quite promising. Thumbs-up from me for upcoming Superman :) 

One plus point: Look of Zeus/Gods. Gods don't age or get sick. They are immortal. So, why shouldn't they look younger? This look of Zeus (Luke Evans) is best ever by me. And Atehna (Isabel Lucas) is seething hot! And this 'younger look' makes the already impressive final battle even more attractive.

Sadly, this again leaves a lot to an upcoming sequel and promises to reach the level next in that! Gods will battle the Titans and that is supposed to be huge.

You might have already seen whatever has been shown in this movie (read 300, Alexander, Troy etc) but it shows all that again pretty spectacularly.

Better made than Clash of Titans.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Let the Right One In (2008, Swedish)

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson
Genre: Drama

Oskar (Hedebrant) is a 12 year old who is always bossed around by some boys in his class. He is too timid to take a stand. Finally, it takes a Vampire to spur him on.

This is a low budget, albeit well made, Swedish film. The movie is more about innocent bond that Oskar shares with vampire Eli (Leandersson). She is his courage, someone he could talk to, and for Eli Oskar is the emotional support, companion she needs. They always look after each other and are best of friends. Unlike Twilight, it’s not a love story. Both the protagonists deliver solid performances and their combined scenes don’t seem like being acted out at all.

The director does a brilliant job in seamlessly embedding a vampire tale to a normal day-to-day life of a small Stockholm town. The movie in itself is quite bizarre and cannot justify what was the point of such a story, apart from satisfying the creative pangs of an artist. Yes, it is entirely a director’s movie, for himself and a niche audience. And it is during such self-satisfying works that the overflow of creative juices results in great movies.

It has moral value – a boy learns to be brave. However, overall treatment is quite unusual. Not sure, what the actual novel tried to convey. In all, the movie is an artistic achievement in dealing with intricacies of human nature.

With so many vampire movies around—not commenting on their being good or bad, or any other comparisons—this one seems very real and is like a breath of fresh air.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Animation
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Plot: Tintin begins his adventure!

Spielberg does it again. Film is pure magic--each and every frame of movie is like turning the pages of comic book...Spielberg probably has some secret device with which he brought all the characters from comic-book to life and put them on screen!

He does take a few liberties for slight modifications from comic-book--like Tintin-Haddock introduction scene. However, this is only to extend the Tintin adventure beyond the Beyond, and I am definitely not complaining.

The show stealer for me was our brave little Snowy! Just watch out for his expressions and movements--perfection personified in animation.
This is also one of the most beautiful animation ever -- capturing tiniest of details of the breathtaking scenery, characters, objects, like never before.

Being a huge Tittin fan already, I found it a little too short! I hope there are sequels to follow and the adventure gets bigger and better.

Thank you Spielberg, Jackson, and all others involved for bringing this ever-young, legendary (and probably forgotten to current entertainment media) adventurer to this generation!

The picture explains what I mean by bringing comic-book to life!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

House of Flying Daggers (2004, Chinese)

Director: Zhang Yimou                      
Cast: Ziyi Zhang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau
Genre: Action, Drama

Plot: Chinese dynasty rule is plagued by various rebellions—“House of Flying Daggers” is one such rebel group.  
House of Flying Daggers

Contrary to what the name suggests, this wuxia film isn’t a high-octane dose of martial arts, it’s rather well-balanced with a heartwarming/wrenching tale of love.

The initial action scenes may not stir you much and you may not find them outstanding, but that is deliberately done only to build up tempo of the movie. As the movie progresses it starts to grip you. While protagonists run from law the vista changes constantly from deep forest to flowery meadow to bamboo forest to golden brown of autumn – bringing back memories of my recent Roopkund trek :)
The forest fight scene and bamboo jungle scene are top notch even remind you of “Crouching Tigers Hidden Dragons”. Bow-arrow scenes are nifty but LOTR-Legolas remains my personal favorite. The daggers are really cool! They are so made to even work as a boomerang!

It would have been a 7+ for me had it not climaxed the way it did. Astounding climax, not just story-wise but visually too – especially visually, and perfectly executed! Totally takes you unawares…didn't expect it to be so...what can I say? only "Rebecca" did this to me before! 

Some Trivia: There was supposed to be no snow-fall in the climax scene but it snowed while shooting and that gelled so beautifully with the scene, adding even more weight to it.

Strongest aspects of this movie are its striking visuals (read natural beauty) and use of various bright colors. What Argento does with colors in his horror movies, Yimou replicates that in his drama/action movies—he actually betters him.

A must watch, highly recommended if you want to experience nature up-close on screen!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Director: Richard Attenborough
Cast: Gene Hackman, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford
Genre: War-drama, History

Plot: WWII operation Market-Garden is deemed as 90% success by most historians, contrariwise, this movie depicts why it was more than just 10% failure.

A Bridge Too Far (1977) 
Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan this movie brings to screen shortcomings (the often not talked about) of the allied forces that led to strategic failure, resulting in loss of life.

A Bridge Too Far deals with an aspect of WWII that is mostly overlooked in other wartime movies. Not many movies portray the allied forced on the losing side; this one does and does so with quite immaculately.

September 1944 - Axis forces are almost defeated and with their resources exhausted, they are retracting from Netherlands. US general Patton and British Marshal Montgomery are racing against each other to be the first one to claim Berlin—their overconfidence overshadows this movie. Political games higher up the ranks force Eisenhower to give clear to Montgomery’s Market-Garden operation.

Market-Garden basically comprised more than 30,000 air-droppings of paratroopers 60+ miles behind enemy lines—an even bigger number than D-day. These paratroopers were supposed to attack and hold the bridges until infantry could arrive to secure them. However, the plan was chalked out hastily, and a lot of basic requirements and warning were completely overlooked. E.g., junior officers kept mum about possibility of radio-communication failure due to terrain (trees and water) and foggy weather conditions; those who reported suspicious enemy activity—tanks captured during aerial scouting and reports from Dutch underground about German elite force: Panzers—were removed from duty. Even some senior officers raised doubts about the strategic planning of Market-Garden—a prime concern being, the daytime jumps 8 miles from the bridge they were supposed to take over. All this notwithstanding, on site in-charge of operation General Browning goes ahead with Market-Garden.

The movie has very lifelike detailing of army infiltration and espionage. You actually feel the desperation of men who are trapped within enemy lines, running short on supplies. The scene of construction of Bailey bridge is simply awe-inspiring.
General Urquhart (Connery) of British Airborne Division, Arnhem loses 8000 of his 10,000 men and is rescued by Major General Sosabowski (Hackman). Lt. Col. Frost (Hopkins) in-charge of 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem road-bridge dies fighting.

The huge star cast delivers a good performance, though there isn’t much scope for any one in particular as there are so many characters.

The movie probably didn’t gather as much accolade from audience, due its theme that is slightly anti of what we are used to but it is critically acclaimed and quite an honest work of art. Length might deter some!

A must watch to experience the flip side of war.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Troll Hunter (2010, Norwegian - Trolljegeren)

Director: André Øvredal
Genre: Fantasy, Mockumentary

Scottish had their mystic Loch Ness Monster 'Nessie' so why can't Norwegians have their very own Trolls!

Please don't judge by the name, it's surprisingly well made and mostly gripping!

Ever since "Blair Witch Project" started the trend for horror mockumentaries we have seen plenty similar ones: Paranormal Activity, Rec, The Fourth Kind (one of the best in my opinion), and now, Troll Hunter is one more addition to the list.

Those into the genre have always enjoyed the antics of mythical Nessie. So many stories and movies have come out based on this character. Somehow, people have moved on from mythical filmBigfoot never quite captured the imagination on big-screen as Nessie did, and "Bermuda Triangle" has been decoded. So, "Troll Hunter" is what you watch when you crave for something similar and peculiar! 
It is a low budget movie but the camera work simply astonishes you, and the CGI is commendable too—the trolls look very convincing!
The story revolves around a group of students trying to figure out the depths of a governmental cover-up. These students assume they are only after some bear poachers, however, they didn’t bargain for a Troll hunter! The movie maintains a good pace all through and there are exciting /comic incidents every now and then. The explanation given for the high altitude Norwegian power grids is very amusing :)

In the climax they do go a bit over the top for a mockumentary but it’s something you want and enjoya guilty pleasure!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Going My Way (1944)

Director: Leo McCarey
Cast: Bing Crosby
Genre: Musical Comedy

A lovely and adorable Musical, perhaps an inspiration for "West Side Story" and other classic musicals. This movie somewhat reminds of good ol', short & sweet "Marty" as well!

Going my Way

Plot: Father Chuck (Bing Crosby) is a face of progressive Church. He is young, flamboyant, caring person who has left behind a life of fun and frolic to join the Parish. He wins the heart of young and old alike without exercising any harsh discipline or preaching, rather playfully and musically. 

Bing Crosby's act is like a soothing symphony. He is very rhythmic and it is topnotch cinematic art to see how he deals with the aging father whom he is supposed to replace, eventually.

I don't know who that young blond was but she was hot!!

A complete joyride.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah
Genre: Drama-Comedy
Writer: Zach Helm

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)Plot: Stranger than fiction—indeed!

A delightful movie that exemplifies top notch direction and a perfect script. Zach Helm's writing is the real showstopper; he conceived a brilliantly writing film. "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" would be the obvious next choice for me where he directs too—it’s already tempting with Portman in it!

Marc Forster is another young director to look out for. He already boasts of successful films like Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner (need to watch this beauty asap!), Quantum of Solace and none of them are similar. Even his latest “Machine Gun Preacher” has a very strong plot. 

What can be said of Ferrell? Not surprisingly, he wasn’t even nominated for any major awards. It’s is high time these Awards recognize comedians—in addition to perfect timing, maintaining the same intensity with multiple retakes is more difficult in a comic act—and give them their dues. Actors like Ferrell, Jim Carrey, etc have been branded as comedian and anything they are associated with, is branded as comedy—doesn’t matter how meaningful and deep it is. Almost same is the case with negative roles.I just hope awards grow up soon and stupendous acts like “Joker/Ledger”—arguably the best ever—don’t have to settle down with “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role”!!

As for the movie, I’ll just quote Forster: “It's not the exact accurate story, but for me the film really isn't about reality. It's about the transformation of imagination, about creativity, about belief. That basically, if you believe, you can make anything happen.” 
This was his take on “Finding Neverland” which, for me, holds true for Stranger than Fiction!


P.S., loved Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium too! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fast 5 (2011)

Director: Yipin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne Johnson
Genre: Action

Plot: Fast cars are back on the road once moreonly this time they have a Vault trailing them!

First things first, I am not a die-hard fan of Fast and Furious franchise and wasn’t too excited about Fast 5 either. The movie starts out in somewhat dullish manner as the initial daylight breakout scene or the Train robbery scene weren’t as awe-inspiring as a sequel number ‘5’ must boast of. 

Fast 5 (2011)
 Eventually, the film moves to Rio and continues with regular gun fights, escapes, chases, hideouts etc. In the meantime, we are introduced to the man who succeeds where all others fail—Dwayne Johnson ‘Rock.’ Dom (Diesel) also gathers his team to take on the Rio Crime boss. There are confrontations between all three groups and now the movie seems to gain rhythm. With some more body counts, explosions, car chases and a ‘Rock-Diesel’ slugfest movie definitely gets bigger—somehow not better. This changes when movie climaxes to an over the top final car chase scene. This is the scene that makes it up for entire movie and justifies Lin’s deliberate docility in first-half action - he does a commendable job in building up Fast 5.

This is not all; it ends even more fantastically! Spoilers ahead—back in D.C (between the credits roll-out with some catchy soundtracks) you find out ‘Rock’ being assigned to another mission and it’s Big. A military convoy has been high-jacked! And this is the work of a—won’t give that away, however, you might guess it as I did!—‘Ghost’.
The end really makes me look forward to Fast 6 (2013)!

The only thing I would hope Lin incorporates in his next installment is a real Villian—of equal magnitude to the ‘heroes’. Even if he ropes in someone with 20% ‘Joker's’ credibility, it’ll balance out the sequel beautifully and get rid of any clichés.   


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986, Japanese)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Animation
Laputa - Castle in the Sky (1986, Japanese).jpg
Inspired by "The Gulliver's Travel" this is another anime masterpiece from the master of hand drawn animation. Miyazaki once again takes you to a dreamworld with flying machine, pirates, a young hero, and a damsel in distress!
The way Miyazaki captures the beauty of nature is better than anything you find onscreen. The creative efforts, thought-process are distinctly visible as always.

A must watch.

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